A loving relationship with grandchildren is cherished by many of us later on in life, but separation can be deeply upsetting if the parents split up. Carolyn Ford discusses what can grandparents can do to protect these treasured relationships.
Government figures show that in 2016 there were seven applications a day by grandparents seeking a court order to spend time with grandchildren after the child’s parents split.
Sadly, grandparents have no automatic right to contact with their grandchildren, although family courts accept the crucial role grandparents can play in the development of their grandchildren. As a result, it is exceptionally rare that courts deny grandparents access to grandchildren.
One way to legally establish and maintain your relationship with your grandchildren is to obtain a contact order. This is a legal document, issued by a judge, that sets out your rights to specified periods of time, in approved locations, with your grandchild.
Meeting the court’s requirements to apply for a contact order
Only people with ‘parental responsibility’ – such as parents or guardians – can make an application for a contact order. However, even though grandparents’ rights are limited, they can ask for the court’s permission – or ‘leave’ – to apply for a contact order.
In considering these applications, courts take into account:
- your connection to the child
- the nature, scope and implications of the application
- if there is any risk to the child – for example, would the application disrupt the child’s life in a damaging way?
What grandparents must demonstrate to the court
If the court approves your application, you can ask for a contact order for access to your grandchild. But, if one or both parents object you will likely face a full court hearing.
This involves both sides giving evidence so it’s vital to get professional legal advice. For your contact order application to succeed you must demonstrate that you have a significant and continuing relationship with your grandchild that enriches or enhances his or her life.
When reaching decisions, courts look at the child’s broader circumstances and will only grant an order if there is compelling evidence that the child will benefit.
An example might involve the court evaluating whether ongoing contact with the child could cause problems for relationships with other family members.
If the judges decide that contact is in the child’s best interests, a child arrangement order will be granted, setting out how much time the child will spend with their grandparents.
WHN has a strong track record of enabling many grandparents to resolve disputes over contact in an amicable and productive manner that provides a solid foundation for loving, long term relationships.
For further advice on child arrangement orders, call Carolyn Ford on 0161 761 4611, or email her at email@example.com